Olympics journey - from 776 B.C. to Beijing-2008
Aug 6 (Ria Novosti) In ancient times, sports originated as
peacetime rivalries between warriors. Running, boxing, wrestling,
chariots racing were all elements of their military training
and the best of them demonstrated their skills in competitive
ancient Olympics, during which the warrior-sportsmen proved
their skills, were held for more than 1,200 years.
first confirmed Olympics took place in 776 B.C., while the
last were held in 394 A.D, after which they were banned by
the Roman Emperor Theodosius because, he said, they were pagan
a millennium and a half, mankind forgot about sports. Different
contests continued to be held, and the Middle Ages saw impressive
tournaments between knights, but they hardly qualified as
During this period, people had no time for sports because
of the disappearance of a common centre of civilisation, a
role that Greece and later Rome played for more than a thousand
ancient tradition was revived only in the late 19th century,
when Europe once again came to perceive itself as a common
civilisation. A French nobleman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin,
was the author of the idea.
pursued two goals - to make sports more popular at home (he
believed that poor physical shape of French soldiers was one
of the reasons for the defeat in the 1870-71 war with Prussia),
and to unite different countries through peaceful competitions,
which he considered the best way of avoiding wars.
first modern Olympic games were held in Athens in 1896. In
the following decades the Olympic movement had to fight for
survival, because none of the major powers was interested
in Courbertin's ideas.
Games in 1900 and 1904, combined with world exhibitions in
Paris and Saint Louis, were not very popular because they
were too long and lacked spectacular events.
Olympic movement grew stronger by the fourth Games in London,
which attracted some 2,000 athletes, more than the number
of athletes in all the previous Games put together.
a complicated social and political phenomenon, big-time sports
emerged in the 1930s when the Third Reich tried to use the
Berlin Games to prove the "Aryan race's supremacy"
to the whole world.
phenomenon became fully established in the 1950s, when Soviet-US
competition was transferred to the sports ground. From then
on, the idea of sports independent of politics ceased to exist.
were not only subject to politics, but became a major part
of it. The superpowers could not afford an open armed clash
and Olympics and other international arenas became the only
places where the confrontation between Soviet Union and the
US, could be fought in real time.
F. Kennedy said that two things determined a nation's prestige
- space flights and Olympic gold medals.
was probably the most honest motto of the Cold War. Big-time
sports became part of this war, with teams turned into military
units, and sports ground into battlefields.
the Soviet team, the 1972 Munich Games were very convincing
revenge for the defeat by the Americans in the non-official
point-count in Mexico four years before.
Soviets simply could not afford to lose in the year of the
Soviet Union's 50th anniversary. Soviet athletes won 99 medals,
including 50 gold, one third more than the Americans.
crowning glory came in the Basketballhalle, where the Soviet
team was competing in the finals against the Americans, the
absolute favourite which had not lost a single Olympic game
in several decades running.
The last three seconds allowed Alexander Belov to score the
victory in this incredible game.
for all sports lovers, this long-standing confrontation was
marred by two boycotts. The US and many other western countries
refused to attend the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, and the Soviet
Union reciprocated by boycotting the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
Soviet Union proved its worth in Seoul in 1988. It received
132 medals, including 55 gold, which compared to 94 and 36
American medals, respectively. The US came third after East
Soviet triumph took place in Barcelona in 1992. The Soviet
Union had already collapsed by that time, and a "combined
team" played under the Olympic, rather than the Soviet,
flag. It won 112 medals, including 45 gold, against the United
States' 108 and 37.
the Atlanta and the Sydney Games in 1996 and 2000, the Russian
team ranked second in the non-official point-count, and was
third in Athens in 2004.
athletes have gathered to compete in Beijing. China's economic
and political might has been steadily growing in the last
few years, and Beijing hopes to win the Game in the non-official
US wants to preserve its global lead, while Russia will have
to fight hard to regain its lost positions.